My Neighbor Totoro (2005)

Genres - Fantasy, Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Adventure, Anime, Children's Fantasy  |   Release Date - May 7, 1993 (USA)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Andrea LeVasseur

In the world of Hayao Miyazaki, the curiosity of two sisters drives the narrative for a story that seems created purely for the sake of whimsical pleasure. There are no villains, and the family actually cares for each other. What's more, the imagination of little girls in the natural and spiritual world is encouraged and celebrated. While unheard of in an American animated adventure, all these elements create a joyous family film that is lighthearted fun for children, yet full of enough nuance to please an adult audience. With Miyazaki's hand-drawn style of sweeping backgrounds and fuzzy creatures, the simple exploration of a backyard is transformed into a magical journey. Unlike typical Disney films, the children's antics never seem contrived or fall into a battle-against-adults storyline. My Neighbor Totoro embraces the creativity inherent in a little girl's play time, while honoring it with the subtle details of a dramatic work. The features of Totoro and the Cat Bus are rendered lovingly, and the family is portrayed as a positive and comforting presence. However, My Neighbor Totoro is not a sugar-coated fantasy; some scenes portray the very real-life fears of being alone at night at a bus stop and being separated from an ill loved one. There are also some humorous bits that reveal a careful observation of children, as well as some genuinely inspiring moments in keeping with the ecological themes Miyazaki frequently returns to. This film does not suffer from a lack of conflict; it succeeds as an adventure fueled by the innocence and wonder of a little girl.